‘How much do you make?’ This insulting, belittling question is addressed by American slam poet, humorist, teacher, and voiceover artist Taylor Mali in his poem, What Teachers Make. “You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them write. I make them read, read, read… I make them understand that if you have the brains, then follow your heart...and if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make, you pay them no attention!” It ends with the slam - "You want to know what I make? I make a difference. And you? What do you make?”
If we are strictly speaking money here, however, your average professional in almost every other industry does make much more than the lowly teacher. The irony is despite studies confirming repeatedly that students who have high quality teachers make significant and lasting achievement gains, dedicated teachers in many countries across the world remain poorly paid.
In India, while government school teachers are paid in the range of Rs.20,000 to Rs.40,000 (310 USD to 620 USD) a month depending on their level of qualification and experience, the situation can get dismal in the private schools sector, which employs nearly 43% of school teachers in India. The 7th Pay Commission launched in September 2015 ensured all teachers in primary schools, secondary and higher secondary schools, colleges and universities receive a hike of 16% in net salary. The projected salary of trained graduate school teachers would become around Rs.29,900 – Rs.1,04,400 (basic) along with grade pay of Rs.13,800. This would bring the net salary of a teacher to Rs.51,420 (788 USD).
While that is news to cheer about, according to the investigations of a national newspaper, many private school teachers in different states were found to be working for salaries as low as a distressing Rs.2,000 (31 USD) per month. Here again corruption is rife, with teachers often made to sign against an official salary and return part of the payment in cash to unscrupulous management.
The figures pale shockingly compared to the salary of the average American teacher, who starts out earning approximately 37,000 USD and goes on to make $60,000 a year. Going by figures released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), stark variance exists around the world in how much teachers earn and also how much their salaries increase with time.
If a teacher in South Korea starts out making 22,000 USD which increases to 34,000 USD after 10 years of experience, teachers’ salaries in Germany begin at around 46,000 USD and max at 60,000 USD a year. Even Germany lags behind however when it comes to Luxembourg, one of the richest countries in the world, where teacher salaries begin at 79,920 USD, while more experienced teachers earn on average 138,920 USD. The next biggest earners are teachers in Denmark (starting 46,000 USD up to 53,400 USD) and the USA (starting at 43,000 USD up to 66,000 USD). France and Belgium come next with teachers earning 30,300 to 65,800 USD and 43,400 to 59,600 USD respectively. Teachers in Hungary earn an average of 10,600 USD a year and are considered ill-paid... For a teacher in India who earns Rs.40,000 a month which works out to approximately 7440 USD annually, the less said the better.
A survey by TED-Ed reveals that in Canada, a middle school Special Education teacher with seven years’ experience has a take home salary of 3,120 USD, while a grade 6 homeroom teacher who with 8 years of experience earns around 2,750 USD per month. A newly qualified BEd degree-holding teacher in London has a take home of around 3,540 USD a month, while an English foreign language teacher with 33 years of experience in Athens earns just around 1,360 USD.
A qualified secondary school teacher in Kildare, Ireland with five years of experience earns 3,140 USD, a teacher with 19 years of experience in Kagoshima, Japan averages 3,340 USD after tax, while an English teacher at the gymnasium in Kruonis, Lithuania earns just 870 USD after 36 years. A 7th grade English teacher starting out in Prilep, Macedonia earns around 133 USD net, while a computer teacher at a community school in Kathmandu, Nepal earns even less at 115 USD. A relatively good packet of 4,370 USD is what a middle school math and science teacher with seven years of experience makes in Oslo, Norway; considerably more than what a 55-year-old English teacher in Bucharest, Romania makes at around 492 USD. Johannesburg, South Africa treats its teachers better, offering a secondary math teacher with three years of teaching experience around 1,130 USD.
Sweden fares even better; a teacher teaching math, science and technology to grades 4 to 6 in Norrkoping has a take home of around 3,030 USD. A 7th grade math teacher with two years of experience in Damascus, Syria earns 114 USD. The picture is definitely rosier in the US where an elementary music teacher of five years in Georgia, earns 2,100 USD net, while a high school special education teacher with five years’ experience in Minnesota takes home 2,800 USD after taxes.
While the scenario is definitely brighter for teachers in the country’s international schools, who start off at Rs.45,000 to Rs.50,000 going up to Rs.1 lakh to Rs.2 lakh for co-ordinators or heads of department, the average salary of a high school teacher in India remains Rs.3,01,462 (approx. 4650 USD) a year. The simmering resentment among the majority of teachers across the country is understandable.
During his last address to students and teachers on the eve of Teachers’ Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pointed out that that while a mother gives birth to us, a teacher gives life to us, and a void remains in our life when there is no balance. He spoke of how a student represents his teacher, is the canvas painted by his teacher, as they make up the only pair that distributes knowledge. He also ventured to add that there is a great demand for good teachers in the world, and India, being a young country, should be able to produce good quality teachers for the world. Make in India, export to the world? Many would love the chance! As to the question regarding the need to find out why “the value of a teacher has lost its sheen and why students don’t want to be teachers when they grow up,” the answer would come back to what a teacher makes… Low salary combined with low respect for services delivered to society cannot make for a cocktail to raise a teacher’s spirits.
Dr S Radhakrishnan Vidyalaya, Malad, Mumbai. MA, B.Ed. 27 years’ teaching experience.
“My husband and I equally contribute towards our family. Yes, I believe I could earn double in another profession. I would appreciate equal rules and policies for aided and unaided schools. Parents should respect the teachers and not believe that their children can do whatever they like just because they are paying fees.”
H Fazalunnisha Hussain
Government High School, Kalimangalam Madurai. MSc, MPhil, BEd. 30 years’ of teaching experience.
“My income fully supports my family. Teaching is a noble job and I don't get upset about my income. The government simply needs to ensure quality education to the students.”
Mount Litera Zee School, Wakad, Pune. B.Com, Diploma in ECE. 3 years’ teaching experience.
“Yes my children are dependent on me. Opportunities are many in every field as well as in teaching; we have to explore opportunities and perform to our best. It gives immense pleasure to spread knowledge and give guidance. The profession can be made more joyous and fruitful if it is being supported by a decent enough package depending on the base spending capacity of Indian people on education.”
Indirapuram Public School. MA, B.Ed. 11 years’ teaching experience.
“My income is not enough to run a house completely yet l am happy as it has given me the love of my students and an identity. I feel blessed to
get a chance to serve my country although l agree that l could earn more – at least Rs.10,000-Rs.15,000 more – in any other field, but l would never get the chance to shape young minds. Sometimes l feel that government has opened a door for people to mock us by giving a chance to undeserving teachers in government schools, who themselves send their own children to public schools where the quality of education is better.”
This article was originally published in the June 2017 issue of ScooNews magazine. Subscribe to ScooNews Magazine today to have more such stories delivered to your desk every month.
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